During and after the debate and passage of health care reform legislation last month, several Democratic lawmakers received death threats or were humiliated in some repulsive ways.
In what seems be déjà vu all over again, at least one Democratic representative has received a death threat and his offices have been flooded with calls, some from people threatening violent acts and shouting racial slurs, as a result of the recent immigration debate in Arizona.
As has been widely reported, last week the Arizona state legislature passed controversial immigration legislation that forces Arizona state police officers to stop and question anyone they “reasonably suspect” to be an illegal immigrant—legislation that would make it a crime under state law to be in the county illegally. The legislation was signed into law on Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer (R).
The congressman receiving the threats and insults is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
According to the Arizona Daily Star:
Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana released a statement Friday saying that the congressman’s office received “some pretty scary calls,” including one from a man “who threatened to go down there and blow everyone’s brains out then go to the border to shoot Mexicans.”
Grijalva staffer Ruben Reyes said the office has been flooded with calls all week about Senate Bill 1070. About 25 percent are “very racist” in nature, Reyes said, characterizing some as “telling that tortilla-eating wetback to go back to Mexico.”
The legislation has stirred a great amount of criticism nationwide and, particularly in Arizona, Latinos are angry and concerned about the legislation.
Reflecting and vocalizing the fierce indignation and fear among his constituents, Grijalva, who is chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has strongly opposed such legislation as being discriminatory toward Latinos.
Earlier last week, Grijalva called for an economic boycott of Arizona should the law pass. In a statement released Thursday, 22 April 2010, Grijalva said:
The governor and legislature are blind to what this bill will really do to citizens, law enforcement and the state economy. Tourists will not come to a state with discriminatory policies on the books. Businesses will not move here. Hispanic workers and taxpayers will leave. If state lawmakers don’t realize or don’t care how detrimental this will be, we need to make them understand somehow. Conventions are a large source of visitors and revenue, and targeting them is the most effective way to make this point before it’s too late. Just as professional athletes refused to recognize Arizona until it recognized Martin Luther King Jr., we are calling on organizations not to schedule conventions and conferences in Arizona until it recognizes civil rights and the meaning of due process. We don’t want to sustain this effort any longer than necessary. It’s about sending a message.
This statement apparently made Grijalva an even bigger target for the threats and slurs that have continued, including a death threat on Friday against Grijalva’s staff at the Tucson office.
As a result of the threats, and concerned for his staff, Grijalva decided to close both the Yuma and the Tucson offices at noon Friday.
According to Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana, police were stationed outside his Tucson office. Both offices were expected to reopen on Monday.
Grijalva himself, however, is not backing down. Fox News reports:
Just hours after Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation’s toughest immigration bill into the law on Friday, Rep. Raul Grijalva sent President Obama a letter calling on him to exercise his “authority to limit [federal] cooperation with Arizona officials in their enforcement” of the law that makes it a crime in Arizona to be in the country illegally.
Grijalva’s constituents aren’t backing down either. The Arizona Daily Star reports this morning:
About 250 people gathered this morning in the parking lot at Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s Tucson office to rally against Arizona’s new immigration law.
Rev. John Fife, retired pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church and a founder of the sanctuary movement, was one of about seven speakers scheduled at the rally. Fife urged those in the crowd to have the courage to stand up to “this racist law.”
This morning’s rally is the latest in a series of rallies and marches this week in Tucson and Phoenix.
The call for a boycott of conventions and conferences in Arizona appears to be finding some receptive ears. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has reportedly canceled its planned fall national convention in Scottsdale.
According to the Miamiherald.com, Jesus Serrano, an independent owner-operator of a Los Angeles-based trucking company has said that “about 70 drivers based in California and Arizona had agreed to stop moving loads into or out of Arizona in protest of the new law. He hopes to get 200 truckers on board for a five-day boycott that will start within 48 hours of the bill’s signing.”
The president of the city of Santa Fe’s Immigration Committee has asked families and businesses to boycott Arizona, as a protest against the recently signed law.
There are several other “Boycott Arizona” rumors, petitions, suggestions and reports in the blogosphere.
How significant or effective such boycotts may be is of course anybody’s guess.
There is no question, however, about the appalling and increasingly common practice of making death threats against legislators, and others, because of political or philosophical disagreements.
While politicians may disagree on ways to protest or reform policy, the threats against Grijalva and his staff are beyond the pale.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), whose district office was vandalized after the healthcare vote, said it perhaps best:
I have said that I strongly disagree with Congressman Grijalva’s call for a boycott of Arizona businesses…However, resorting to vandalism and threats to express political viewpoints is unacceptable. We must work together as a nation to enforce federal immigration laws and strengthen border security.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.